The shady side of Ice Cube

Numerous people were involved in the birth of gangsta rap in the 1980s, though very few have managed to remain as relevant as Ice Cube. The former N.W.A member was born O'Shea Jackson in South Central Los Angeles, but he's been going by Ice Cube since he was around 11 years old. He told The Believer that his brother gave him the nickname after he caught him "trying to be too cool" with his female friends from high school. He's always had lofty goals, and his drive to succeed is what helped him transition from angry young rapper to Hollywood actor and producer, but one thing's for sure: Tinseltown hasn't made him soft.

It probably won't surprise you to learn that the man behind seminal rap record AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted was at the center of a fair few controversies in his younger years. He still speaks his mind to this day, and while that's sometimes a good thing (his dressing down of Bill Maher after his ill advised use of the N-word drew widespread praise in 2017), sometimes it backfires spectacularly. Social media has given Cube the chance to speak his truth to a massive audience whenever he feels like it, and there's no filter with him. The Friday star has offended just about every group going at this point, but what did he do, exactly?

This is the shady side of Ice Cube.

Ice Cube rapped about killing his Jewish manager

Ice Cube's exit from N.W.A led to a nasty beef with his former crew and ex manager Jerry Heller, who, according to the rapper, stiffed him big time when it came to songwriting royalties. The diss track he recorded (entitled "No Vaseline") was huge, but many people took issue with the lyrics, especially those aimed at Heller. What did he say about the Jewish music mogul? "Get rid of that Devil real simple / Put a bullet in his temple / 'Cause you can't be the N**** 4 Life crew / With a white Jew telling you what to do." The track caused uproar in the Jewish community, with prominent members quick to speak out against Cube.

"I know that recording artists these days like to use the excuse that their music reflects reality, but this record is dangerous," the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a largely Jewish human rights organization, told the Los Angeles Times. "This is not a just theoretical issue here. Ice Cube is advocating violence against other ethnic minorities and given the climate of bigotry in the 1990s, we consider this kind of material a real threat." When Heller broached the subject of Cube's royalties in his memoir, Ruthless, he claimed that he only got less when he had to share songwriting credits with his bandmates. "It's not robbery," Heller wrote, adding, "It's not a Jewish conspiracy to rip off the poor artist."

It wasn't just Jewish people that Ice Cube offended

Ice Cube was called out by numerous unhappy Jewish people following the release of 1991's Death Certificate, but they weren't the only group offended by the rapper's sophomore album. "Nobody is safe when you listen to Death Certificate," he boasted at the time (via the Los Angeles Times). "Any of us that has any kind of flaws in our character, [the album] was probably going to find it." Cube took aim at everyone from white supremacists to Black "sellouts" on the record, but the track that seemed to cut deepest was "Black Korea," which many saw as flat-out racist.

He wrote the song, which contained many lines considered offensive to Asians, following the fatal shooting of a Black female by a Korean shop owner. The rapper threatened a boycott of Korean stores or worse if they didn't "pay respect" to African Americans. Cube once again came in for criticism — years later, Michelle Malkin of the National Review sill referred to the song as "violence-stoking bigotry" — but he claimed that the track wasn't meant to be taken at face value. "'Black Korea' is my observation on the situation of how some Korean businesses treat Black customers," he said (per YISEI), adding, "I can understand how some people hear my records on the wrong level. I mean, rap is more of a bragging thing. You don't make rap records that say, 'Yo, I'm mad, so I'm gonna bring financial pressure on you.'"

Cypress Hill v. Ice Cube

Ice Cube versus Cypress Hill was one of the biggest rap beefs of the 1990s, and it began when the former allegedly stole some lyrics. According to Cypress Hill frontman B-real, he and Cube used to be tight. "I looked at Cube like one of my f****** homies," he told Vlad TV in 2013. "I was at his wedding... I kicked it with him." B-real was supposed to play a part in Cube's hit 1995 comedy Friday, but a scheduling conflict derailed that. "To make it up to Cube," Cypress Hill offered up a song for the soundtrack, but the former N.W.A. man apparently wanted more. When they refused to let him use the track "Throw Your Set In The Air" on account of it being a planned single, Cube recorded a song with a strikingly similar chorus and used that instead.

B-Real's bandmates went straight on the radio and accused Cube of being "a biter," but he wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. That was, until he visited Cube in the studio and heard terms that Cypress Hill had coined in his music. "There was words from 'Throw Your Set In The Air' that we created, nobody had used them yet on any records," B-Real also told Vlad TV. "When I heard those words, I was like, 'Man, he f****** straight lied to my face.'" A feud erupted and diss tracks were fired back and forth, but they buried the hatchet years later.

Ice Cube was accused of ordering the 'beatdown' of a rabbi

Accusations of anti-Semitism were thrown at Ice Cube once again in 2015 when TMZ claimed that the rap icon turned movie star had his entourage give a "beatdown" to a rabbi. According to P. Taras, he was jumped by a group of men after he accidentally "bumped into" the Ride Along star at the MGM casino in Detroit. "Taras claims he said something like, 'Hey, watch out', and the rapper/actor responded by having his boys attack," the gossip outlet reported. "While he was getting stomped, Taras claims he heard several epithets. He thinks that's because he was wearing a yarmulke." The alleged victim of the assault launched a damages suit against Cube, asking for a sum of $2 million to make it right.

Cube vehemently denied the claims at the time, and when they were mentioned by the Daily Beast in an article titled "Ice Cube's Long, Disturbing History of Anti-Semitism" in 2020, he went after the reporter who penned it, Marlow Stern. "The statement by Marlow Stern is a f****** lie," an irate Cube tweeted before threatening legal action. "I never ordered my security to beat up anybody. Get your facts straight or I'll see you in court you a**hole." Stern didn't appear to be too worried about the threats. "Honestly, expected better from the dude who wrote 'No Vaseline'," he clapped back in a tweet of his own.

Ice Cube's ties to the Nation of Islam explained

The Daily Beast's Marlow Stern wasn't the only journalist that Ice Cube called out in 2020. The straight-talking celeb tweeted an ominous warning at Jake Tapper after the CNN anchor branded the leader of the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan (above left), a "vile anti-LGBTQ, anti-Semitic misogynist" in a post. The rapper's response was short and to the point: "Watch your mouth Jake." Why is Cube so protective of Farrakhan, a man in charge of an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center has classified as a hate group? The former N.W.A member reportedly has links with the NOI dating back decades. In 1991, on his 22nd birthday, Muslim rapper Kam (aided by NOI captain Shaheed Muhammad) cut Cube's hair in what was described as "a symbolic baptism of sorts" by Williamette Week

Cube "never officially joined the Nation," however, and he claims that he doesn't follow Islam — or any religion for that matter. "All I know is, it's one God," Cube told WW in 2016. "Religion is man-made, it's flawed... I follow my own conscience." He may not follow him in a traditional sense, but Cube is definitely a fan of Farrakhan, despite his extreme views. "The Honorable Louis Farrakhan continues to warn America to this very second and he's labeled one of your 'evil names' and you turn your ears off," Cube tweeted in 2020, adding, "Why is the truth so offensive that you can't stand to hear it?"

Did Ice Cube rip off a famous Tupac song, too?

Cypress Hill aren't the only ones who accused Ice Cube of copying their sound. In his last ever interview, Tupac Shakur called out Cube for trying to ride his coattails on the back of "Hit Em Up," Shakur's ferocious Biggie Smalls diss track. "I dig Ice Cube," Shakur told Rob Marriot in August 1996. "I looked up to him, but because I looked up to him and I studied his style, mastered his s***, I know what he is doing is wrong." According to Shakur, Cube's sales were down at the time and he wanted to jump on the East Coast/West Coast bandwagon.

"He just dropped some s*** called 'Bow Down' and if you listen to it, you can see he heard 'Hit Em Up' and was like, 'Oh, that's how it's supposed to be," Shakur said. "Why wasn't he making them bow down when I was in jail? That's what I mean. That's wrong and I'm not gonna let that happen, cause then that would make me obsolete." Shakur's "Hit Em Up" and Ice Cube's "No Vaseline" are regularly ranked among the top diss tracks in rap music history, though Cube isn't a fan of the Tupac track — he thinks he went "too far" with it. "If I'm mad at you, trust me, I could think of five verses for you — just you — I don't have to go at your family, your kids, your whole life," he told Genius.

Ice Cube allegedly got robbed as retribution

The ironic thing about Ice Cube's beef with Jerry Heller over unpaid royalties is that he's been accused of doing the exact same thing to other artists. Regular collaborator DJ Pooh had some "money issues" with Cube according to rapper Kam, who also fell out with him over finances. Kam told Vlad TV that he had Cube's back when he left N.W.A, but when it came to the music side of things, he didn't feel as though the favor was being returned. Pooh and Kam released the diss track "Whoop Whoop" and things stepped up a notch when Kam's friend Solo (who also had a business dispute with the Boyz n the Hood star) saw Cube stopped at a red light.

A fight broke out between the pair, and when it was done, Cube was apparently missing a few valuables. "[I] knocked him down — knocked him out," Solo claimed in rap documentary Beef II"Woke him back up. Whooped on his a**. Somehow his chain fell in my hand... Then all of a sudden his Rolex started jumping off and coming into my hand, I dunno how that happened." Kam and Solo took Cube's chain to a Cypress Hill show, where B-Real held it up on stage. "[The] crowd go crazy," Solo recalled. "They go bananas off of it." In the end, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan stepped in and asked Kam and Cube to squash the beef.

Is Ice Cube a fake gangster?

Ice Cube made a fortune from presenting himself as a man of the street, but there's rumors that the gangsta rap pioneer has never been much of a gangster at all. When Alonso Williams from the World Class Wreckin' Cru (Dr. Dre and DJ Yella's group before the formation of N.W.A) sat down with Vlad TV, he revealed how shocked he was when he heard Cube's lyrics. "It f***** me up," he said. "I'm like, 'Who? This got to be bulls***!' You know what, he's a great actor." Kam (who rapped "It's a shame you got rich off our stress and strife / You ain't never gang banged in your life" in his diss track "Whoop Whoop") agreed with that assessment, likening Cube to Al Pacino or Robert De Niro. "If you've got a gift for that type of expression, then you can look like that."

Even Jerry Heller, almost three decades his elder, claims that he was never scared of Cube, the only N.W.A member who wasn't actually straight out of Compton. When the much maligned music manager was asked about the famous feud years after Cube split on him, he suggested that the rapper was a phony. "The funny thing is, Ice Cube went to Taft High School in Woodland Hills," Heller told Murder Master Music Show. "Not exactly the toughest guy that I ever met... I'm from Cleveland, man. I carried a gun when I was 11 years old."

Jerry Heller's death got a frosty reaction from Ice Cube

You probably won't be shocked to learn that Ice Cube didn't post a tribute tweet to Jerry Heller when he passed away in 2016 at the age of 75. The rapper told Detroit radio station Hot 107.5 (via Rolling Stone), "I didn't have no emotions," when he got the news. "I'm just glad I'm with my brothers today. I'm glad I'm with DJ Yella, I'm glad I'm with MC Ren today, it's only right. I ain't gonna pop no champagne, but I ain't gonna shed no tears either." Cube was apparently feeling less nostalgic, more philosophical. "It is what it is," he added. "We come here to pass, and he's outta here. Like I said, I'm not losing no sleep over that one."

Heller launched a lawsuit against Ice Cube and others before his death, angry at his portrayal in 2015 N.W.A biopic Straight Outta ComptonSpeaking to Rolling Stone, he said that watching the film was "more hurtful" than listening to "No Vaseline" for the first time. "Look, I am what I am, but I'm not a thief," Heller told the music mag. "And I'm not scandalous. I did more for N.W.A ... I mean, it was just incredible, the success that we had. So for them to call me a thief is just terrible." His copyright infringement suit was dismissed two years after his death.

Ice Cube faced backlash after sharing a 'hate mural' on Twitter

Like countless others, Ice Cube took to social media to air his frustrations in the weeks following the death of George Floyd at the hands of (now former) Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and three others. As someone who's used his music to rally against police brutality in the past, you would have expected Cube to launch a scathing verbal assault on cops as protests flared up in the U.S. and around the world, but instead he decided to share an image that had that already been deemed anti-Semitic. The image in question was a photograph of a mural featuring offensive caricatures of Jewish bankers seated around a Monopoly board resting on the backs of Black men. "F*** the new normal until they fix the old normal," he captioned the tweet.

Sadly, the mural post was just the tip of the iceberg. He also shared a picture of a black cube (a supposed occult symbol that's regularly referred to as the Black Cube of Saturn by conspiracy theorists) inside the Star of David, which tipped many Twitter users over the edge. "This is his second anti-Semitic post in a week," BET news host Marc Lamont Hill tweeted, adding, "Conspiracy theories of Jewish global domination are textbook anti-Semitism." It wasn't long before Cube responded. "What if I was just pro-Black?" he clapped back. "This is the truth brother. I didn't lie on anyone. I didn't say I was anti anybody. DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE."

Did Ice Cube really spread Russian propaganda online?

As Ice Cube's June 2020 tweetstorm continued, he moved away from conspiracy theories about Jews and started posting Russian propaganda. The rapper shared some images of ancient Egyptian sphinxes supposedly in their original state — before Europeans shot off the noses to make them appear less African, the meme claims. The trouble is, this had already been exposed as Russian propaganda. "The image on the right in this Ice Cube tweet is brand marked 'BM' for Black Matters, a fake Russian media property and FB page that focused on integrating itself into real Black media networks," Renée DiResta, technical research manager at Stanford Internet Observatory, tweeted in response, adding, "It spread a range of misleading content designed to sow discord."

The rapper's Twitter tirade continued for hours. He shared everything from memes of cartoon character Marvin the Martian ("The Warner Brothers were warning you about what's coming," he captioned a picture of character) to doctored images of President Trump as The Joker ("Riddle me this," Cube cryptically added). People began to question whether somebody had commandeered his Twitter account to cause trouble, but the rapper and actor confirmed that this was not the case. "This is Cube, my account has not been hacked," he confirmed, adding, "I speak for no organization. I only speak for the meek people of the earth. We will not expect crumbles from your table. We have to power of almighty God backing us all over the earth. NO MORE TALKING. Repent."